“Intellectually Gifted” means a child whose intellectual abilities, creativity, and potential for achievement are so outstanding that the child’s needs exceed differentiated general education programming, adversely affects educational performance, and requires specifically designed instruction or support services. Children from all populations (e.g., all cultural, racial, and ethnic groups, English Learners, all economic strata, twice exceptional, etc.) can be found to possess these abilities. Children identified as intellectually gifted are exempted from the discipline procedures at 34 C.F.R. §300.530- 537. Children with a dual diagnosis that includes intellectually gifted must be considered as children with a disability and may not be exempted from the discipline procedures at 34 C.F.R. §300.530-537. Evaluation standards are available Here.
Some Gifted Characteristics
|Able to absorb unusual amounts of information; excellent memory||Boredom with the regular curriculum and impatience when required to wait for other members of the group|
|Elevated levels of understanding||
|Sizeable and unique variety of interests and curiosity||
|Advanced levels of language development||
|Advanced ability in processing and speed of thoughts||
|Flexible ways of thinking||Perceived as disruptive as well as disrespectful toward authority and traditional thinking|
|Early ability to learn for the sake of learning||Refusal to seek interesting areas of study if proof of learning is required|
|Advanced ability to understand unusual and varied relationships||Misjudged by others who view their ideas as off topic or lacking value|
|Ability to produce advanced or original ideas and solutions in unique ways or advanced for age||Frustration from penalties for not following specific directions|
|Early assorted patterns of thinking||Frequently rejects or omits details and questions generalizations of others|
|Early ability to use and create visionary plans||Frustration when others do not comprehend or appreciate originality and insights|
|Consistently evaluating self and others||
|Heightened sensitivity to the expectations and feelings of adults and peers||
|Intensified self-awareness and feelings of being different||
|Unusually keen sense of humor (gentle or hostile)||Humor used for critical attacks resulting in poor relationships|
|Early ideal standards and sense of justice||Frustration from unrealistic reforms and goals|
|Early formation of a belief that they have control over the outcome of events in their lives||
|Rare emotional depth and intensity||
|High expectations of self and others||
|Increased sense of right and wrong||
|Intense motivation to realize one's potential||
Heightened cognitive and affective ability to conceptualize and solve societal problems
|Early involvement in and concern for intuitive knowing||Perceived as unusual or strange|
|Obvious creative expression||
|Abstract, complex, logical, and insightful thinking||
|Highly developed curiosity||
|Highly developed fluency of thought||Maybe indecisive due to wanting to consider as many ideas as possible before making a decision|
|Originality of thought and expression||Resists rules; wants to do things no one else does|
|Unusual amount of input from surroundings||
|Unusual alertness||High energy may be considered as misbehavior|
|Large difference between physical and intellectual development||Disconnect between mind/body functioning|
|Unwillingness to accept the separation between personal standards and athletic skills||Rejection of activities they are not good at, which limits experiences and developmental potential|
What can we do for gifted learners?
A recent comprehensive analysis conducted by researchers at the Duke University Talent Identification Program (Duke TIP) and the Center for Talent Development (CTD) determines that grouping students by ability and providing opportunities for students to progress at a more rapid pace can increase overall student academic achievement. The authors comprehensively reviewed nearly 100 years of research and found the following:
- Students benefited from within-class grouping, which often involves teachers assigning students to small homogeneous groups for instruction based on prior achievement or learning capacities.
- The benefits were even greater when students were grouped across grade levels for specific subjects and when high-achieving and gifted students were grouped together for instruction.
- Students who accelerated their learning through various methods, such as skipping grades or entering school or college earlier, significantly outperformed their non-accelerated peers.
What does it take to help a gifted student progress? We know it takes being around intellectual peers.
Grouping: Best practice is to group gifted and academically talented students with other students of similar ability. These students do not grow when spread out among classrooms or learning groups.
Curriculum for Grouping: Much research and work has been put into creating specific curricula for gifted and academically advanced students. The type of curriculum you choose should be written for the group you are working with, it should be published, and/or it should have won awards. If you are grouping homogeneously in RTI2 or in a pull-out for gifted and academically talented students, curricula should be designed to meet their needs.
Curricula should be specifically designed for gifted students, provide engaging content and experiences, and be taught by teachers trained in gifted education. The work should not simply be a higher volume of the same content. Instead, the curriculum in an advanced setting should be providing higher-order thinking skills.
What does it take to help a gifted student progress? We know it takes purposeful teaching to progress a gifted student. A gifted student should receive differentiation in the general classroom in addition to other programs specifically designed for them (such as pull-out classes or modifications required by an IEP). These differentiations can include, but are not limited to, what is listed below. Many of these differentiations and strategies will overlap, such as questioning and rigor.
Lessons grounded in strong questioning encourage higher-order thinking. Questioning, in order to be effective during a lesson, needs to deepen a student’s understanding of a concept or topic. You can add rigor, depth, and complexity through questioning strategies. In addition, you can relate the content being discussed to higher themes (such as force, motion, conflict, and change). This will push students to make connections. Schools can also adopt a thinking model such as Paul’s Reasoning Model or Kaplan’s Depth and Complexity to work from.
“Thinking is driven by questions” that “define tasks, express problems, and delineate issues. Answers, on the other hand, often signal a full stop in thought.”
Design and Implementation Guidelines
- Design questions during a lesson to pose unknowns, establish generalizations, determine relevancy, generate additional questions, or identify ambiguity.
- Practice using question stems that are posted on the wall. Using question stems will help support students as they learn not only to expect and answer these questions in class discussion but to ask them of each other. Use Bloom’s Taxonomy to generate higher-level questions.
- Thinking models can also be displayed to support students as they take risks and consider differing viewpoints instead of providing predetermined answers.
Instead of memorizing a list of presidents, provide an advanced or gifted student a choice to select 3–5 presidents from differing time periods and find commonalities in their leadership styles that lead to their successes or failures. Consider what questions and insights this leads to about more recent presidents.
Read “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.” Have students independently list what they remembered/observed. For younger students, this could involve drawing instead of writing.
Next, have students share their lists out loud, and group similar items together. For example, list one might be: Momma Bear, Papa Bear, Baby Bear, and Goldilocks. List two might be: chairs, beds, and bowls. List three might be: scared and upset. Overarching themes can be drawn from these lists. For example, list one includes characters, list two includes physical items that become problems, and list three includes emotions. Explain that in order to make a good story, characters, problems or conflict, and emotions are needed.
This exercise started at the most basic level of listing/recall and scaffolded student thinking up to analysis by drawing connections among ideas.
This should also then lead to further questions such as: Are there other characters who influence the story but are not mentioned (such as Goldilocks’s parents)? If Goldilocks came and told your Principal the story, what would their response be? What would Baby Bear’s grandparent bears think when he told them the story?
The class has been studying medieval Europe. Have students independently list what they have learned during the unit. Next, as a class, have students share their lists out loud. As students share, list the items on the board.
Silently sort what students say into categories. List one might be: land, money, resources, etc. List two might be: death, destruction of property, cost, etc. List three might be: feudal lord, knights, fiefdom, etc.
Allow students to explore and negotiate how they would label each group of ideas. List one could be labeled “reasons for conflict.” List two could be labeled “negative impacts of conflict.” List three could be labeled “political structure.” Use questioning to guide students to realize that these general categories you have labeled can work across multiple cultures.
This could also lead to further questions such as: Did different countries utilize different political structures during the same time period to achieve the same results? If you were to create an additional level to the political structure, what would it be, and how would it relate to the other structure? Reference current events to defend or deny the idea that we feel the same negative impacts of conflict.
Implementing rigor is about creating an environment in which each student is expected to learn at high levels, each student is supported so he or she can learn at high levels, and each student demonstrates learning at high levels (Blackburn, 2008).
Increasing rigor and complexity in a classroom is not the same as increasing workload. Moreover, rigor is more than content, process, and product. It involves the environment and expectations a teacher has for his or her students. The misconception that a gifted student is a strong, independent learner and needs little encouragement is inaccurate. Gifted students are as diverse in their readiness as non-gifted students and also need support.
Design and Implementation Guidelines:
Dr. Bertie Kingore, a leader in the field of gifted education, has broken down the components of rigor.
This acrostic for rigor organizes five key elements for action.
- Recognize realistic and relevant high-level expectations.
- Integrate complexity, breadth, and depth in content, process, and product.
- Generate cognitive skills.
- Orchestrate support systems and scaffolding for success.
- Refine assessments to guide instruction and benefit learners.
Kingore, B. (Winter 2011). Differentiating Instruction to Promote Rigor and Engagement for Advanced and Gifted Students. Tempo, XXXI (3), 9-15. www.tagt.org
A teacher can use the same standard but have different expectations for different students.
Grade and Standard - Cornerstone Standard Grade 5: Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, descriptive details, and clear event sequences.
Typical Learners - Given a grade-level novel in which keeping secrets is part of the plot, students will write a story about a time they kept a secret.
Advanced Learners - Give an above grade-level novel in which keeping secrets is part of the plot, students will write a narrative that includes advanced vocabulary and is from a different point of view than the original author.
Dr. Sandra Kaplan identified 11 areas that can be used as a framework for adding depth and complexity: language of the discipline, details, patterns, rules, trends, unanswered questions, ethics, big ideas, relationships over time, multiple perspectives, and generalizations across disciplines.
Kaplan divided these eleven areas into two categories: areas of depth and areas of complexity.
The areas of depth (thinking about a topic on a deeper level) include language of the discipline, details, patterns, trends, unanswered questions, rules, ethics, and big ideas.
The areas of complexity (thinking about a topic in a more complex way.) include relationships over time, across differing points of view, and across disciplines.
- One area of depth to explore might be patterns. As you teach a topic, look for patterns of reoccurring events, elements, or themes. Sift through what is relevant and/or irrelevant, and bring relevant patterns to the attention of students. Use resources such as primary source documents, time-lines, etc. to support your lesson.
- One area to explore for complexity could be considering all points of view, whether it be of characters in a story, opposing sides in a conflict, etc. Use various resources (biographies, multiple versions of a story, nonfiction writings, primary sources, etc.) to learn about and then argue each point of view.
All students should be challenged with higher-level thinking and building cognitive skills. Many teachers use Bloom’s Taxonomy to help accomplish this.
Cognitive skills require the sort of mental activity that enables students to:
- scrutinize, evaluate, and assimilate text and ideas coherently;
- communicate clearly, logically, and concisely;
- substantiate precise, strategic scientific and mathematical thinking; and
- engage in reflective thought, problem solving, and decision making.
Kingore, B. (Winter 2011). Differentiating Instruction to Promote Rigor and Engagement for Advanced and Gifted Students. Tempo, XXXI (3), 9-15.
Remember to teach the many different types of thinking such as logical reasoning, critical thinking, and creative thinking. All of these should be taught to students of all ages.
There are many myths about gifted students that prevent them from receiving the support and scaffolding that they need. These myths include:
- Gifted students don’t need help.
- They’ll do fine on their own.
- Teachers challenge all students, so gifted students already have differentiation.
- Gifted students need to be role models for other students.
- All children are gifted.
- Acceleration is socially harmful.
- Gifted programs are elitist.
- That student can’t be gifted because he has poor grades or a disability.
- We have AP and honors courses, so we serve gifted students.
- Gifted classes require too many resources.
Gifted students may need academic support as well as non-academic support. Being gifted and/or advanced academically does not mean you will always know all the answers, make good grades, or want to learn.
- Academic support: These support systems include grouping with intellectual peers, questioning, rigor, creative thinking, interest-based assignments, compacting, and accelerating.
- Non-academic support: These support systems address the student’s affective needs. Even after meeting the gifted/academically advanced student’s academic needs, the student could still need additional non-academic support. Many gifted students internalize problems much more so than peers their age. Students can be made to feel out of place because they finish work quicker than others their age or because they are interested in topics well beyond the average interesting topics for peers their age. Oftentimes a gifted student will seem intense. This could mean intensely curious; intensely sensitive in taste, touch, hearing, smell, and sight; or intensely sensitive to criticism, etc. The intensity can manifest itself through overexcitability, particularly in areas such as the psychomotor facilities, the senses, the emotions, intellect, and the imagination.
General strategies for non-academic support in the areas of overexcitability include:
- discussing the concept of overexcitability;
- focusing on the positives such as being energetic, curious, loyal, moral, and creative;
- cherishing and celebrating diversity by letting them pursue their interests and passions;
- using and teaching clear verbal and nonverbal communication skills, which can be done through role-playing;
- teaching stress management from an early age by exercise, asking for help, or organizational skills;
- creating a comforting environment like places that are quiet and calm, wearing clothing that is not irritating, or moving while working;
- helping to raise awareness of one’s behaviors and their impact on others as well as how others perceive them; and
- remembering the joy and helping them realize their great joy and astonishment when they learn or see something of beauty.
Adapted from, Overexcitability and the Gifted. (2016, October 12). Retrieved March 16, 2017.
Supporting a student’s non-academic needs should include accepting them for who they are not just their academic prowess. Accept their humor, curiosity, and desire to know “why?” Understand that many times, these students know they are different but do not fully grasp how much different. Their desire to be perfect or hide their abilities should not be downplayed. Overall, the best support for non-academic areas includes acceptance and support of a student’s strengths and limitations.
Assessment is the continual analysis of information to determine students’ learning needs and accomplishments. Kingore, B. W. (2004). Differentiation: simplified, realistic, and effective: how to challenge advanced potentials in mixed-ability classrooms. Austin, TX: Professional Associates Pub.
To refine means to improve something by making small changes and removing unwanted elements. Assessments should be refined for the needs of a gifted/advanced learner. This includes using assessments to determine if there is a need for acceleration or compacting. It also includes providing choices and opportunities for students to choose how they demonstrate their growth. Use assessments to provide authentic feedback, and use rubrics that incorporate and reward risk taking and seeing connections beyond what is taught in the classroom.
- This should provide evidence of a student's understanding before instruction begins.
- This can be refined to indicate whether compacting is an option.
- This should provide evidence of a student's progress during instruction.
- This can be refined to indicate whether the pacing of the instruction should increase.
- This should provide evidence of a student's growth after instruction.
- The product demononstrating growth can be refined to not limit students demonstrating growth.
For example, a multiple choice test is limiting, but giving the student choices on how to show mastery is much less limiting to the student.
- Critical Thinking
- Details about each of the five elements of Rigor
- Paul’s Reasoning Model - Visual chart
- Depth and Complexity - This site also has a link address the eight new prompts.
- Debrawski’s Five Overexcitabilities
- Teaching models that help support and scaffold more complex thinking.
- Highly gifted children and peer relationships
- Myths about gifted students
- Dr. Sandra Kaplan’s introduction to Prompts of Depth and Complexity.
- Overexcitability and the Gifted
Acceleration addresses the fact that many gifted students learn at a faster pace than other students their age. Acceleration can involve a whole grade or a single subject. Accelerating work for a gifted student means that they are progressing through the curriculum at a faster pace. There is substantial evidence that acceleration provides significant gains for gifted students.
Accelerated pace involves a teacher varying the amount of time a student is given to learn the knowledge and skills. Enrichment is not acceleration because enrichment does not progress a student more quickly through the curriculum.
Design and Implementation Guidelines
Why is acceleration used with gifted children? Because many gifted students learn at a faster pace, acceleration becomes important. Giving a student additional or meaningless work to fill up time until everyone else has caught up is not adequate service.
Grade-based acceleration includes:
- Early entrance to kindergarten
- Curriculum compacting (when students are given advanced work instead of more work)
- Dual enrollment (also known as concurrent enrollment)
- CLEP testing (credit by examination)
- Early admittance to college
- Online courses
Subject-based acceleration includes:
For example, in the lower grades, subject-based acceleration could mean being grouped with a reading group from a grade above. This would replace the curriculum of that subject in the child’s regular grade. In higher grades, this might mean taking an online math course because the middle school does not offer the more advanced math that is needed.
Compacting consists of streamlining the regular curriculum, which allows time for accelerated content, enrichment, and pursuit of individual interests. This can be used for all students, and is not exclusive to gifted learners. The common apprehension that students will eventually regress because there are holes in their learning is not supported by research.
Design and Implementation Guidelines
Compacting a student’s current curriculum begins by finding out the skills the student has already mastered. Because gifted students learn at a quicker pace, fewer repetitions are needed for mastery. Pretesting is one way to discover what is mastered. Small and/or large sections of the curriculum can be compacted. For example, a pretest and compacting can be done for a lesson or for a unit.
Since you can compact the curriculum because mastery of content is achieved at a faster pace, time becomes available for students to either progress more rapidly through the next level of content or to pursue a different topic altogether.
Steps of Compacting
- At the beginning of a unit, chapter, lesson, etc., pretest. If appropriate, you can use the final test as the pretest.
- If a student scores well (such as 85 percent or above), the student is exempted from participating in the unit or chapter.
- Use this extra time to allow the student to pursue a topic of strength or interest. Students can complete a contract or can be placed in a group to complete a higher level replacement task.
- This could be done with researching, creating a product, inventing something the student has always been curious about, etc.
Example: A student is given the final test for a unit as the pretest for the unit. If the student earns a score of 85–90 percent on the final test before any content is presented in class, he or she does not need to participate in that unit. The curriculum has been compacted and extra time has become available.
Creative thinking skills can be taught, used across disciplines, and developed over time. Models have been developed to guide teachers as they improve creativity in students. These models can be used across grade levels and subject areas. Creative thinkers often: experiment with ideas and hunches; play with words and ideas; make unexpected connections; challenge accepted assumptions; add or change directions given by the teacher; etc.
Design and Implementation Guidelines
S: substitute ideas
C: combine ideas
A: adapt ideas
M: minimize or maximize ideas
P: put an idea to another use
E: eliminate an idea
R: rearrange or reverse ideas
- Break creative thinking into its key elements and practice each element. The key elements for creative thinking are: fluency, flexibility, originality, and elaboration.
- Fluency: How many ideas can a student generate about a given topic within a given time frame? For example, give the class a goal of 30 seconds. Go around the class and each student has to name a different topic/idea dealing with cells (or a relevant topic of your choosing). For each repeated answer, five seconds is added to the time. If the time at the end is less than 30 seconds, that time becomes the new goal. Repeat this activity a few times. The time will hopefully be lowering as students become more fluent in their thinking of ideas.
- Flexibility: What range of ideas can a student generate about a given topic? For example, the class just completed a fluency activity requiring them to list as many ideas that come to mind after reading a passage about cells. This was done as a class and listed on the board. Next, have students work in small groups to categorize items from the list. Some categories might only have one idea. Not all ideas given by a class will match other’s ideas. A student might have an idea that is so original, it stands alone in a category. For example, if only 1 student mentions that plant cells are different shapes than animal cells. That doesn’t fit with the categories of parts of cells or functions of cells. It would be its own category.
- Originality: What ideas are original and not repeated? You are looking for unique responses. These ideas could be unique to the student, unique to the class, unique to the school, or unique to the world. For example: Out of a list generated about cells (or any topic), which ideas are not repeated?
- Elaboration: What kind of details and embellishments can be added to the ideas to expand and enhance them? For example, students create a list of ideas or look at a list of ideas given to them. What details or embellishments can the student then generate?
- The SCAMPER mnemonic tool will generate ideas. This should help students look at an existing product and make changes.
- “The Six Thinking Hats” by Edward de Bono is a tool that can be used in group discussions or individual thinking. While only one of the hats is specifically labeled as creative, looking at a problem from multiple perspectives builds cognitive skills needed for creativity. Click here to find the visual mind map of the six thinking hats.
Blue Hat: Process – What are we now? What do we need to do next?
Yellow Hat: Benefits – What are the good ideas or advantages?
Green Hat: Creativity – What new ideas are possible?
Red Hat: Feelings – How do we feel about this?
White Hat: Facts – What do we know or find out?
Black Hat: Caution – What problems could arise?
Interest-based activities can be used and designed to increase a gifted student’s motivation. Use an interest inventory to let students communicate their interests.
Design and Implementation Guidelines
Begin by choosing or designing a questionnaire that is age appropriate. Find two questionnaire examples under “Helpful Links.” Let the student complete or help the student complete the questionnaire. Look at the responses, and use them to build groups or guide individual instruction for the student. Does the student have wide ranging interests? Does the student have a narrow focus of interests? What types of programs or projects would be most interesting to the student?
Let students research and explore an interest. These interests are not limited to grade-level content. For example, organize a group of students (of one or multiple grade levels) based on a common interest (riding horses, historical periods, historical conflicts, nutrition, etc.). Students then explore that interest and report back to let you know what they have learned. In older grades, this type of project could focus on career interests. Schools could potentially even connect students with professionals in the field.
Interest-based projects/groups can also be designed around a topic within a subject area. For example, a sixth grade class is studying the Middle Ages. Students are allowed to pick a topic about the Middle Ages that they are interested in and wish to pursue further. Example topics could include building armor, weaponry, or the War of the Roses. Teachers and students then negotiate a contract outlining expectations, deadlines, and the end product.
Extra-curricular activities are not in place of academic differentiation but in addition to academic differentiation. Extra-curricular activities might follow a student’s interests. Some of these activities are athletic in nature, while others are creative in nature. Three of the most popular organized extra-curricular opportunities in Tennessee include Tennessee’s Governor’s School, Odyssey of the Mind, and Destination Imagination.
No. Many gifted students have areas of strengths and areas that are weak in comparison. It is important for a child to understand that being gifted does not mean being perfect or good at everything.
Yes. Gifted students have advanced academic and affective (social and personal) needs. They may have difficulty understanding their drive for perfection and expectations of others. There is an organization dedicated to supporting the affective needs of the gifted whose website can be accessed here.
No. Districts can choose to have an advanced academic program, but this does not negate the option of an IEP.
Yes. There are provisions for a classroom teacher (direct service), a consulting teacher (overseeing those providing direct service), and those who serve as a gifted education coordinator. The gifted manual listing the requirements for personnel in gifted education can be accessed here. Scroll to Appendix C.
Yes. During re-evaluations, IEP teams meet and consider evidence to see if service should continue. This does not mean a full battery including IQ is required every three years. Rather, the extent of the re-evaluation is a team decision.
No. Gifted in Tennessee is under the umbrella of special education. As with any student, if a child’s needs are not being met in the general education classroom, an IEP team should meet and discuss evidence. This includes, but is not limited to, a student’s affective needs.
Yes. A student does not have to progress through every level of RTI2 before being considered for gifted testing. More information about the updated Special Education Evaluation & Eligibility standards can be accessed here. Click on "Disability Evaluations and Eligibility," then scroll down to "Intellectually Gifted."
- The Differentiator: An online tool for differentiation. The Differentiator is based on Bloom's Taxonomy, Kaplan and Gould's Depth and Complexity, and David Chung's product menu.
- Reading Lists from Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth
- Hogies Gifted
- Ian Byrdseed
- Exquisite Minds
- Bertie Kingore: Dr. Kingore is an authority in the field gifted education. She is the author of the Kingore Planned Experiences and the Kingore Observation Inventory.
- MENSA for kids: This link is to lesson plans, but you can navigate throughout the site from there.
- Intellectually Gifted Evaluation and Eligibility
Resources for Extracurricular Organizations
- Tennessee Governor’s Schools
- Multiple extracurricular opportunities
- Destination Imagination
- Odyssey of the Mind